NASA Astronauts Complete Spacewalk to Prep for Upcoming Solar Array Upgrades

NASA Astronaut Josh Cassada enters the airlock at the end of Tuesday’s spacewalk to prepare the station for upcoming solar array upgrades.
NASA Astronaut Josh Cassada enters the airlock at the end of Tuesday’s spacewalk to prepare the station for upcoming solar array upgrades. Credit: NASA TV.

Expedition 68 Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 4:25 p.m. EST after 7 hours and 11 minutes in preparation for upcoming solar array installation.

Cassada and Rubio completed the majority of the primary objectives for today to assemble a mounting bracket on the starboard side of the station’s truss assembly in preparation for the installation of a pair of International Space Station Rollout Solar Arrays (iROSAs).

The duo completed the routing of cables on the 3A power channel, and began the installation process of a modification kit on the 1B power channel, which will act as a scaffolding for the new solar arrays. The crew deferred some planned tasks associated with the completion of the modification kit, including the installation of collars, and the routing of cables for the 1B power channel. The remaining work will be completed during a future spacewalk prior to the arrival of the solar arrays for the 1B power channel, and no changes are planned for the next two upcoming U.S. spacewalks.

It was the 254th spacewalk in support of space station assembly, upgrades and maintenance, and was the first spacewalk for both astronauts. Cassada and Rubio are in the midst of a planned six-month science mission living and working aboard the microgravity laboratory to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions, including lunar missions through NASA’s Artemis program.

The next two U.S. spacewalks are scheduled on Tuesday, Nov. 29, and Saturday, Dec. 3. On Nov. 29, two astronauts will install an iROSA for the 3A power channel, and on Dec. 3 a pair of astronauts will install an iROSA on the port truss for the 4A power channel. These will be the third and fourth iROSAs out of a total six planned for installation. The iROSAs will increase power generation capability by up to 30%, increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

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Crew Preps for Solar Array Jettison and Dragon Departure

ROSA Jettison
The ROSA, Roll Out Solar Array, is pictured shortly after it was jettisoned from the tip of the Canadarm2.

An experimental solar array demonstration was jettisoned while the Expedition 52 crew continued preparing the SpaceX Dragon for its release on Sunday. The three crew members also studied how microgravity impacts their bodies.

Following a week of successful science operations on the experiment for the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA), attempts to retract the array were unsuccessful. The ISS Mission Management Team met Monday morning and made the decision to jettison ROSA directly from its location at the end of the space station’s robotic arm, where it remained fully deployed in a normal configuration.

The original plan called for ROSA to be stored back inside the trunk of SpaceX’s Dragon which is detached and burned up in the atmosphere during Dragon reentry. The Operations team executed the jettison procedure that was developed as part of the pre-flight planning process that covered various scenarios. Once jettisoned, ROSA will not present any risk to the International Space Station and will not impact any upcoming visiting vehicle traffic.

ROSA is an experiment to test a new type of solar panel that rolls open in space and is more compact than current rigid panel designs. The ROSA investigation tests deployment and retraction, shape changes when the Earth blocks the sun, and other physical challenges to determine the array’s strength and durability.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is one week away from departing the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson continued packing Dragon this morning with used hardware and research samples for analysis back on Earth. Dragon will be released from the Canadarm2 Sunday at 11:38 a.m. EDT and splash down in the Pacific Ocean about 5-1/2 hours later.

Whitson then joined Flight Engineer Jack Fischer in the afternoon to wrap up the Seedling Growth-3 experiment. The botanical study is exploring how the lack of gravity impacts light sensing and growth in plants. Plant samples from the study will be returned to Earth on Sunday inside the Dragon resupply ship.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, along with Whitson and Fischer, took body measurements today to help scientists understand how living in space affects body size. The crew also collected blood, urine, saliva and breath samples for more insight on astronaut health.

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